Вероника Аркадьевна Долина

Veronika Dolina

(b. 1956)



In 1971 a young girl began writing her own songs. She was 15 years old. Her guitar was young and so were her poems. Three years later, her friends knew her as an 18-year-old poetess with a guitar, a miniature “bard”. On the way to a birthday party, she got off at a Moscow metro to write a song and give it as a present for her friend. She did not know that 25 years later she would be singing that song to thousands of people.

Veronika Dolina was born in Moscow in on January 2 1956. Not much is known about her biography, except that she finished the university in Moscow in 1978, and taught French. She appeared on the stage in the early seventies and was immediately hailed as one of the first members of the post-okudzhava bard movement. Her voice was young and feminine; her poetry was individual and fresh. Her guitar accompaniment was nothing special, it followed the style of Okudzhava, but there was something different in her style.

Veronika Dolina

In a 1984 interview with Okudzhava in the Leningrad House of Writers Okudzhava said: “Veronika Dolina is a young talented poet who sings some of her poems to guitar accompaniment. I wrote some encouraging words about her in your Leningrad magazine Avrora. And I don’t believe I was mistaken. She takes her work very seriously. She’s not over preoccupied with her own popularity, and she’s often dissatisfied with her work. That’s a good sign. The future will show us how talented she is.” These were good things to hear from the most loved bard in the nation. And quickly Dolina rose to fame. The articles that were published on her, and still are published, are strange and lack any serious literary criticism or biographical information about her life. What is known is that she remained and remains one of the most influential bards of the era. Becoming close friends with the “Garden Circle”. Some of her most famous poem songs are “Formula”, “House of Chaikovsky in Klima”, “Flying Woman”, “Candle”, and “Don’t Let a Poet Go To Paris”.

(Robert Young, Soviet Underground, here)




Articles in Russian


Poems in Russian

  O O O O O

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Book: My House is Flying. Poems by Veronika Dolina. Compiled and Edited by Jekaterina Young and Christopher Carrell. Introduction by J. Young, (Portsmouth: City Arts - Portsmouth City Council, 1993), ISBN 0 9520732 1 8



Я сама себе открыла,

Я сама себе шепчу:

- Я вчера была бескрыла,

А сегодня полечу.

И над улицей знакомой,

И над медленной рекой,

И над старенькою школой,

И над маминой щекой.



Как ни грело всё, что мило,

Как ни ластилось к плечу,

Я вчера была бескрыла,

А сегодня полечу.

Над словцом неосторожным,

Над кружащим над листом

И над железнодорожным

Над дрожащим над мостом.



То ли дело - это сила,

То ли дело - высота?

Я вчера была бескрыла,

А сегодня я не та.

Кто-то землю мне покажет

Сверху маленьким лужком.

На лужке стоит и машет

Мама аленьким флажком.


Было время: смех и слёзы,

Не бывало пустяков,

Слева - грозы, справа - грозы,

Рядом - стаи облаков.

Как ни мучились, ни звали,

Кто остался на лугу,

Я вчера была бы с вами,

А сегодня не могу.



I have discovered myself;

I whisper to myself.

Yesterday I was wingless,

But today I will fly

Over a well-known street

And over a slow river

And over an old school

And over mama’s cheek.



How everything dear was warm,

How it hugged my shoulder.

Yesterday I was wingless

But today I will fly

Over an incautious word,

Over a circling leaf,

And over a trembling

Railroad bridge.



Is it a force of nature?

Is it the height?

Yesterday I was wingless,

But today I’m not the same.

Someone will show me the ground

From above like a little meadow.

On a hill stands mama waving

A little scarlet flag.


There was a time of laughter, tears

Are never wasted.

Storms to the left and to the right,

Nearby flocks of clouds.

No matter how they agonized and shouted,

The ones who stayed down on the meadow,

Yesterday I would have been among you,

But today I cannot be. 


English translation from here





Ну, хочешь, я выучусь  шить,
А может, и вышивать? 
Ну, хочешь, я выучусь  жить,
И будем жить-поживать,
Уедем отсюда прочь,
Оставим здесь  свою тень,
И ночь  у нас -  будет ночь,
И день  у нас -  будет день.
Ты будешь  ходить  в лес
С ловушками и ружьем.
О, как же весело здесь,
Как славно мы заживем.
Я скоро выучусь  прясть,
Чесать  и сматывать  шерсть,
А детей у нас будет пять,
А может быть, даже шесть!
И будет трава расти,
А в доме топиться печь,
И, господи мне прости,
Я, может быть, брошу петь.
И будем, как люди, жить,
Добра себе наживать ...
Ну, хочешь, я выучусь  шить,
А может, и вышивать?


You know, I can learn how to weave,
And even how to adorn. 
You know, I can learn how to live,
And then we could just go on.
We'd go some place far away, 
Just shadows'd be left behind, 
And our day will be a day, 
And our night will be a night. 
You'd go to the real woods 
With snare traps and a firearm. 
O, Lord, how great if we could 
Live here, how joyful and warm. 
I'd soon learn how to wind 
And even to spin the fleece. 
And kids: we might go for five, 
And maybe we even have six. 
The oven would be alight, 
And grass would grow tall in spring. 
And Lord, please forgive me if I 
Might probably never sing. 
Like everyone, we would then live 
And grow in our home. 
You know, I can learn how to weave
And even how to adorn.


    My thanks to Maya Jouravel - Майя Журавель - who permitted me to use her translation from her book The First Rendez-Vous, Select Collection of Russian Poetry (page 68) - Первые Свидания, Переводы Русских Поэтов,  Renome, Saint Petersburg, 2003, 228 p.  ISBN  0-9644425-0-7





Дитя со спичками


Ты делишься со мною планами,

А я не вписываюсь вновь,

Опять неловкая, нескладная,

Ты, среднерусская любовь.


Где-где с котятами и птичками

Любовь танцует в облаках,

А ты у нас – дитя со спичками,

Дитя со спичками в руках.


У нас одних такое станется:

С резным крылечком теремок,

А пригляжусь: из окон тянется

Сырой, удушливый дымок.


Она стоит: платочек, валенки,

Бездумный взгляд её глубок,

В её ладони зябкой, маленькой

Зажат проклятый коробок.


О, это наши поджигатели!

Ничтожна мировая связь.

Какие силы мы потратили,

С сироткой этою борясь,


Какими нежными привычками

Нам защитить себя теперь,

Когда опять дитя со спичками    \

То в окна постучит, то в дверь? / (2) 


Child with matches
You share your plans with me, but surely
I do not fit into your plans?
Our love is cumbersome and surly,
It's anything but song and dance. 
Elsewhere love effortlessly hatches,
All grace and joy. But where I stand 
Love is a vicious child with matches,
A child with matches in her hand.
Where else but here.  A tiny castle,
Carved perfectly from pine and oak.
Come closer, and you'll have to wrestle
With suffocating, acrid smoke.
Watch her come out: dress full of patches,
Huge thoughtless eyes where one can drown,
And in her hand the dreaded matches
Are ready for another round.
Behold the safety barriers blasted:
Our little matchgirl plays for keeps. 
Just how much effort have we wasted,
Rocking that ghastly child to sleep?
And how can gentle caring catch us,
How will affection change the score,
When I can hear the child with matches
Banging her fists against the door?




      Я играла с огнем,
      Не боялась огня.
      Мне казалось, огонь
      Не обидит меня.
      Он и вправду не жег
      Мне протянутых рук.
      Он горячий был друг,
      Он неверный был друг!
      Я играла с огнем
      Вот в такую игру:
      То ли он не умрет,
      То ли я не умру.
      Я глядела в огонь
      Не жалеючи глаз.
      Он горел и горел,
      Но однажды погас.
      Я играла с огнем
      До поры, до поры,
      Не предвидя особых
      Последствий игры.
      Только отблеск огня
      На лице у меня.
      Только след от огня
      На душе у меня...


I was playing with fire, and I wasn't afraid. 
I knew that I wouldn't be harmed while we played.
True enough, I had suffered no burns in the end. 
A hot-tempered friend--not a trustworthy friend. 
I was playing with fire, and the rules went like this:
Either fire would hit, or else I wouldn't miss, 
I looked into the fire, more and more sparks were spun
When without any warning the fire was gone. 
I was playing with fire (such a brief game it was),  
Not expecting our play to have consequences. 
But the fire is gone, leaving barely a trace:
The warmth in my soul, and the glow on my face.




My thanks to Tanya Jean Wolfson,  who permitted the reprodution of her translation of the last two poems.






Последняя песня


Не боюсь ни беды, ни покоя,
Ни тоскливого зимнего дня,
Но меня посетило такое,
Что всёрьёз испугало меня.
Я проснулась от этого крика,
Но покойно дышала семья.
“Вероника”, – кричат, – “Вероника,
Я последняя песня твоя”.
“Что ты хочешь”, – я тихо сказала, –
“Видишь, муж мой уснул и дитя,
Я сама на работе устала.
Кто ты есть? Говори не шутя!”
Но ни блика, ни светлого лика,
И вокруг темноты полынья.
“Вероника”, – зовут, – “Вероника,
Я последняя песня твоя”.
Что ж ты кружишь ночною совою?
Разве ты надо мною судья?
Я останусь самою собою,
Слышишь, глупая песня моя!
Я немного сутулюсь от груза,
Но о жизни другой не скорблю,
О моя одичавшая муза,
Я любила тебя и люблю.
Но ничто не возникло из мрака,
И за светом пошла я к окну,
А во тьме заворчала собака:
Я мешала собачьему сну.
И в меня совершенство проникло
И погладило тихо плечо,
“Вероника”, – шепча, – “Вероника, \
Я побуду с тобою ещё”.            / (2)


Last Song


I don’t fear tragedy or restlessness,
Not a long boring winter day,
But I was just visited by something
That in all seriousness troubled me.
I awoke from this kind of scream
But the family was breathing in peace.
“Veronika!” They scream “Veronika!”
I am your final song.”

“What do you want?” I quietly asked,
“See my husbands asleep, so’s my child.
And I am tired from work.
Just tell me who you are, and don’t joke.
But no patch of light, and no bright face.
And around me – total darkness.
“Veronika!” They scream “Veronika!”
I am your final song.”

“Why you circle in your own night?
Are you a judge over me?
I have remained who I am,
Can’t you hear me, my stupid song?
I’m hunched a little from heaviness,
But I don’t search for a different life.
Oh my wild muse,
I loved you, and I still love you!

And nothing appeared from the gloom.
And I walked towards the light of the window.
But in the darkness the dog started barking –
I was bothering a dogs dream.
And perfection seeped into me
And lightly patted my shoulder.
“Veronika!” in whispers “Veronika!”
I will visit you again . . .”



    Translation into English by Robert Young, from here.


  Other poems translated into English:

by Tanya Jean Wolfson, here

I bought the loudest drum down at the fair

Do not kill me. Do not touch. (A Candle)

Life might have been not so rotten and mean

And the world was silent as the hours went by